Work, Leadership, and Grace
Since leaving my previous job, I have had much more time and opportunity to write. I feel so much better about what I’m doing. Although my income may only come from my adjunct teaching positions, I definitely feel like I am working; I feel busy. For the first time in months, I am happy with my work. I’ve had the chance to write things I enjoy writing, to pour myself into what I write, and to truly believe in what I'm working on. I’ve begun a short story series—Part 1 and Part 2 of which can be found here--which has given me the chance to experiment with my writing. I’ve actually started working on my memoir, which is something I never thought I’d do.
About two months ago, I submitted an article for the Virginia Maryland Washington D.C. Dog Magazine. The article was on how Belle helps me navigate and cope with my anxiety and depressive symptoms and episodes. This month, that article was officially published in the magazine.
Some of my writing assignments have been articles for the web portion of a local women’s professional and lifestyle magazine. The past week I have been working on two articles that highlight women in powerful positions in their profession—the Superintendent for the National Fire Academy, who is also the first female to hold her position, and the President/CEO of a county hospital in a neighboring area. Interviewing these two women has given me particular insight into leadership.
In my previous experience of having a direct supervisor (outside of academia that is), the supervisor acted more as a manager than a leader. I felt I was intensely and unfairly criticized. I was inadvertently told I could not be trusted to do my job. Because of the treatment I endured, I stopped trusting my own abilities, and it became a cycle.
In interviewing these women, I was taken back to my negative experience. Not because they mirrored that experience, but because they were so different. While each woman had her own way of responding to the interview questions, the themes were similar: community, “do not forget where you come from,” mentorship, and leading—not managing—your workforce. I couldn’t help but reflect. Here, I thought, are supervisors who know how to be leaders.
One of the things I took from these interviews was the concept of leading by example and learning through mistakes. These women don’t just tell others what to do or how to do it. They show their employees—through previous experience, commitment, and communication. I wondered if my experience at my previous job—personal situation aside—would have been better if my supervisor had exhibited different behavior.
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I teach about leadership in the Small Group Communication course I instruct, so I’m familiar with leadership from a theory and academic standpoint, but also from positive and negative personal experience. There’s one ultimate leader example, though, that I always think of but is usually frowned upon to discuss in academics: Jesus.
Jesus is the ultimate portrayal of leading by example and learning through mistakes. He tells his disciples and the people what they are to do, but He also shows them. He shows genuine love and compassion for others. He shows the people how to have faith. He also shows plenty of forgiveness to those who have strayed.
I found it interesting that as I was working on this piece we started a new series at church: “Jesus Is ____”. I had a plan for this particular post, but today's sermon changed that, and, actually, it’s more connected than I thought.
Today, the series kicked off with “Jesus is grace and truth.” One of the tidbits from this sermon is the idea that Jesus showed us how to approach others. We read through the story of the woman accused of adultery in John 8 as an illustration, which brought about the pastor’s final point and the piece that stuck with me the most: the concept of “grace and truth” versus “truth and grace.”
Basically, grace should come first. Once grace is given, truth can follow and be better heard. It’s a balance of both.
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I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect, either in my career path or in my faith. My story plot lines are far from J.K. Rowling-status. I tend to be a sappy, hopeless romantic in my writing, and my attempt to get out of that style doesn’t always go well. I’m not a perfect instructor by any means; I make mistakes. I “fail” at having faith a lot. I “fail” at believing sometimes. I “fail” at praying. But none of these makes me a failure, either as a writer, an instructor, or a Christian.
The reason is that balance of grace then truth.
If I had been shown a bit of grace in my previous work environment, perhaps things would have been different. But that experience taught me something not only about the professional world, but also about treating people: show grace. It’s okay to give second chances; in fact, we should. Because God gives us second and third and fourth chances all the time. God gave us the ultimate second chance in Jesus.
Jesus, though he gives truth, does so gently, as in the story of the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” The truth here is that, yes, according to the law of the time, she should have been stoned. But Jesus told the gathered crowd “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” The truth is everyone had sinned, so therefore had no right to condemn another. Jesus gave her truth in acknowledging her wrongdoing, but also granted her grace by lack of condemnation (read: death).
Christians are followers of Christ, signifying, simply in words, His leadership of our lives. If we truly are followers, then we must approach others the way He approaches us: with grace then truth.
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Thanks to my past experience, I know what kind of professional I want to be and what type of person I could or could not work for. But I’ve also had the chance to take a look at my values as a person, and I realized I want to change them.
I used to instantly go to condemnation and truth. Like the people in John 8, though, I have no right to condemn others when I myself have strayed from God’s path. Instead, I want to show grace first.
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In what area do you need to show more grace?
I pray God would guide you in showing grace to others and that He would speak to your heart when you are tempted off-balance.